Breaking a Cycle of Generational Abuse
I was born and raised in the small town of Brazil, IN. A town of secrets and corruption. But I will save that story for another day. For generations my family struggled with some form of abuse, whether it was drugs, physical, sexual, alcohol, or emotional. The abuses were passed on from one generation to another. My story on the blog today is a glimpse into my childhood and how God helped me to break those patterns of abuse.
My father was in and out of prison for most of my life for being the town thief. My mother, sisters and brother and I were living on welfare—with all the stigma attached to that. My mother was an angry, violent and confused woman. She told me that she loved me, but her actions did not speak love. I suffered from physical and verbal abuse on a daily basis. Both my parents were victims of abuse from their parents.
I often wondered, “Do other mothers treat their children this way?”
I stayed away from home a lot.
My mother would often have me beg to the neighbors or family for food or money. But I did not like begging, so at ten years old, when most little girls should be playing with dolls, I started mowing yards, raking leaves, babysitting, and working two paper routes to buy necessities for my family. I grew up fast. However countless times when we would be painfully hungry, a bag of groceries would miraculously appear on our doorstep. Even at ten years old, I felt that God had His hand on my life.
When I was a freshman in high school my grandfather’s step son, a senior named John, asked me to the prom. I was not sure why he asked me; only the popular freshman girls got asked to go. And no one had ever asked me on a date—small town, dad in prison, welfare kid—so this was a big deal. Strangely, my mom let me go. John’s sisters set me up with a beautiful sky blue formal gown and took me to a beauty salon where the stylist put my long brown hair into an up-do. I felt like a princess. It was a double date with John’s sister and her boyfriend—thankfully! On the way home, John, who was a big six-foot-five boy, tried to rape me in the back seat of the car with his sister and her boyfriend right there. If they had not, by God’s mercy, stopped him, he would have raped me. I was terrified. When I got home, I went right to bed and I cried.
Traditionally, the day after prom, everyone went on a picnic. John showed up at my door to take me, but I refused to get out of bed. Even after I told my mom what had happened the night before, she insisted that I go. She was concerned about John’s feelings being hurt; that he would be embarrassed if I didn’t go with him. But I was not going to move from my bed. So I lay there on my bed while my mom began to beat me. She pulled my hair, trying to pull me from the bed. Yet somehow, this 300 lb woman could not move my 100 lb body. All while John was waiting outside. I did not go, however I did suffer her wrath.
So much for loving me, mom! I thought. Yet the beating didn’t hurt as much as her calling me stupid, telling me that no one would ever love me, and not protecting me from a potentially terrible situation. I was so hurt and angry that I promised myself I would leave home as soon as I could manage on my own, never get married and never have children.
One day when I was spending time in prayer with The Lord, I asked Him, “Where were you when my mom was beating me?”
“Mary, I was right there with you,” I felt Him say. “I was holding you on the bed; that is why your mom could not move you. Your mother chose to be angry and violent toward you, but I chose to protect you from things far worse than her anger.”
And then I felt Him say to me, “Trust Me, Mary, and follow Me. I will take you on a journey of choices, change and victory.”
That was a pivotal moment in my life.
Two years later, as I was nearing my sixteenth birthday, my dad, having served his time, came home and began working. One day he came home from work and told me that a “nice young man” was coming to take me on a date Friday night and that I should be ready to go at 6 p.m. Of course I made a point to refuse, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Little did I know that God was working a miracle.
I had been praying that God would send someone to love me. At our school lunchtime, two of my friends and I would sit in the balcony and sometimes point out boys that we would date. One day, I pointed to a boy and said, “If I was really desperate, I would go out with that guy.” Thinking I was so funny.
Well, the laugh was on me, because it was that boy who showed up at my doorstep on Friday night. His name was Mike, and he is now my husband of 43 years. God answers prayers.
But while I was dating Mike, my dad messed up again and was sent back to prison. I was sure that Mike would not want to date me anymore and that his family would certainly not approve. After I told Mike about my dad, his response was, “I am in love with you, Mary, not your family.” Even Mike’s mother continued to love me like I was her daughter. Of course, I now know that the source of that love was Jesus. And so began my journey of redemption.
Despite my promise to myself that I would never marry or have children. Mike and I married in the summer of 1975. After being married 5 years we started our family. The doctors told us that we had a 10-15 % chance of having children. Well, we had four beautiful children in the next 5 years. My relationship with the Lord continued to deepen. He was the one guiding me in my marriage and in raising my wonderful children.
I continued to have a cordial relationship with my mom. She had called on me many times for help and I knew the Lord wanted me to be respectful to her and care for her. But there was still a lot of hurt between us, and it wasn’t until her father’s funeral that I began to truly understand why.
At the funeral, my mom confessed to me that my grandfather had sexually molested her from the time she was three years old until she married my dad at the age of eighteen. I wanted to vomit. My heart broke for her and what she had been through because of him. It explained her anger. But then, I went to a different place. She had left my sister and I in his care many times. How could she have done that? I also learned he had molested his step daughters. My sister and I could not remember a time when he ever harmed us; and if he had, the Lord must have erased it from our memory. Still, this was very difficult for me to forgive my mom for.
I wanted my mom to tell me she was sorry—for how she had treated me during my childhood. But she never did, instead, she said that “she had done the best she could to raise me.” Ouch! That was hurtful. My heart was so broken.
Overtime The Lord helped me to forgive my mother. I have learned that forgiving her whether she asked for forgiveness or not was more for my healing, and that forgiving her did not make her actions right, it made me free. The Lord had blessed me with so much and took away the hurt that I felt from my abusive childhood. I was able to move on in my journey.
I had pledged to be the opposite of my mom, both as a wife and mother. I was very involved in our families lives, loving every moment with them, and loving them deeply. They all grew up thinking they were my favorite.
One day I was driving and my daughter Bethany, who was a senior in high school, sent me a text message. I pulled over to see that she had simply written: “I love you, Mom.” Now Bethany had said she loved me a thousand times. But in that moment I felt God say to me, “Mary, the cycle has been broken!”
I knew exactly what He was saying. I wept tears of joy and gratitude to my Savior.
The cycle of abuse had stopped with my family and me.
Jesus did not promise us a painless life. But with God’s help you and I can choose to not pass on the generational abuses of those before us. And with His redeeming love and power we can have a journey of choices, change and victory.
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.
By, Mary Guess
Many years ago I told God that I did not want anything to do with marriage or having children, I imagine He had a good giggle. I had never witnessed a God- centered family. Since then He has taken me on an amazing journey. I have been married to Mike for 43 years, we have 8 children. 4 that I gave birth to and 4 that married into our family. We have 10 amazingly beautiful grandchildren. I am blessed beyond words. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by my story and that you will see and trust God at work in your lives.